I think the words I repeat most during class are « relax » and « breathe ». I know. What powerful insights. But honestly, these might be the most important aspects of any Yoga practice. Sometimes I see students losing their focus: their eyes wander around, the mind follows and the breath becomes nothing but a distant phenomena. Or they get so tensed up, they forget to breathe altogether. And for the humph time they hear me say « don’t lose your breath », « back away, and relax », « breathe ». So why am I putting so much emphasis on the breath?
Because that is how, as Yogis, we can heal ourselves: do not forget that breathing is the change of shape in our thoracic and abdominal cavities which contain our precious organs. The air getting in and going out, coupled with our body mouvements (asanas) and awareness, allow the prana (life force) to move freely within ourselves, from the superficial to the deepest layers of our beings. Each inhalation allows us to create space in both our body and mind, and every exhalation liberates toxins and tensions, making more room for what we really need.
Inhale, create space. Exhale, let go.
If you haven’t really done this exercice before, maybe you can try and do it now:
– seat in a comfortable position (you can laydown if sitting is too uncomfortable for you) and for the first few minutes, just focus on your breath. Nothing else. Observe the air getting in and going out, without trying to change anything. If your mind wants to take you elsewhere (to the horrible date you had last night or to the store you have to go to because your fridge is empty), go back to your breath. Your breath should be the sole object of your attention. Stay there as long as you want. Do not judge anything. Just observe with no attachement, and breathe.
– when you are ready, try to balance your inhalation wtih your exhalation. You can do it intuitively or you can count, whatever works better for you. It can be 3, 5, 7 seconds, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure you can breathe comfortably without straining yourself. Nice and easy. Do not pay attention to the stories your mind is telling you. Observe, let go. Go back to your breath.
– Lenghten your breath, again, as much as you comfortably can. No forcing, no speeding up, just slowly lenghtening. Relax your jaw, relax your forehead. Keep going for a few more minutes.
Now observe the space & the calm within. And smille. You did it.
I love this statement found in some ancient Yoga scriptures: the Yogi’s life is not measured in number of days, but in number of breaths. Your breath, body and mind at strongly interrelated and the quality of one always, always has an impact on the quality of the others. And do not forget: your breath is the only thing that truly connects you to the present moment, to that second you are living right now. So do not let it slip away, unnoticed: live it to the fullest, every time you can!